FAU summer communications courses disappear from schedule without warning

Chastity Pascoe

Lack of Communication - The number of available summer courses for the School of Communication & Multimedia Studies unexpectedly decreased, leaving students struggling to fill their summer schedules. Photo by Michelle Friswell
Lack of Communication – The number of available summer courses for the School of Communication & Multimedia Studies unexpectedly decreased, leaving students struggling to fill their summer schedules. Photo by Michelle Friswell

The School of Communication & Multimedia Studies (SCMS) summer schedule changed without warning to faculty.

According to David Williams, an associate professor in the department and program area coordinator, the faculty usually submit their proposal for semester schedules and it is approved with few alterations, but for summer 2013, this was not the case.

“I don’t know who precisely changed the schedule, but it was changed,” stated Williams.

In the SCMS, a group of faculty – which includes the instructors for the term – handle course selection each semester. According to Williams, for this summer semester about seven faculty members took part in usual pre-semester meeting where they discussed schedule plans.

The faculty chose courses based on the needs of the students and instructors volunteered to teach them. This is the same process that SCMS uses for every semester.

Due to a new summer course selection process that was outlined in a memorandum sent out by the Office of the Provost in February of this year, departments across the board cannot spend more than 105% of the expenses of summer 2012 courses on summer 2013 courses.

If the college fails to offer the same number of semester credit hours as it did in summer 2012, the loss in tuition dollars will come directly out of the college’s budget. But, if the college manages to turn out a surplus in tuition dollars, one-fourth of the surplus will be kept by the university, one-fourth will go to the provost’s office, and the remaining half will go to college itself.

”The curriculum isn’t determining [course selection] really.. .what are the most profitable classes,” Chris Robe, associate professor in the SCMS and president of FAU’s faculty union – the group that represents the university’s faculty as a whole – said.

According to Williams, all course types were available before the schedule was changed, including introductory, theory, methods, performance, contexts, and capstone courses – all of which have specific credit requirements to graduate with a bachelor’s in communication studies.

Following the changes, students were left with introduction to communication and civic life, public speaking, three contexts courses, and one capstone course.

These changes in the summer 2013 course selection process have not only led to unrest amongst students, but amongst faculty as well.

“We met, as a union, with them about a week ago and said sort of the problems we had with it,” stated Robe.

According to Williams, everything changed last summer due to the ‘24/11’ decree, which required 24 students to be registered for an undergraduate course and 11 students to be registered for a graduate course for it to remain on the schedule.

This policy was clearly not backed by faculty during the annual faculty union survey last November where nearly half of FAU’s faculty union gave President Mary Jane Saunders an unfavorable mark.

Beyond the monetary restrictions, the course selection process itself makes faculty suggestions hold less weight, because the course selection is up to to deans, chairs, and directors.

“The faculty can propose what they want in each department but essentially it’s the deans who strike them or approve them,” stated Robe.

The faculty is now dealing with student complaints due to the more limited course variety.

“Several students have said, ‘Oh, I can’t get what I need in the summer,’” stated Williams.

One student within the SCMS already found registering for classes within his college to be difficult, and recent changes haven’t helped.

“It was slightly more stressful this year to pick out classes,” Tyler Dexter, senior film, video, & new media major, said. “The thing about my major is that a large portion of the classes are offered in three to four hour, one day a week blocks, making it difficult to get a schedule to work.”

Each semester, faculty chooses the appropriate courses based on student demand.

“Faculty, of course, are closer to students and get a pretty good sense of where that demand shifts,” said Williams. “We try and make sure that we have a balanced course offering within the resources available.”

Williams said that because the faculty members on renewable contracts haven’t been notified of their contracts being  renewed, the fall schedule isn’t certain. These unverified faculty positions make for an unverified fall schedule.

Now many SCMS students will have to deal with a summer that’s lacking in the courses that they need, and a fall schedule that isn’t yet reliable, according to Williams.